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Piedmont birding

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Falcons among Charlotte’s urban dwellers

By Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff writes on birding in the Piedmont.

The exciting reports of nesting peregrine falcons in uptown Charlotte has been in the news recently, and with good reason. This is a very noteworthy occurrence for this once federally endangered species and currently endangered breeder in North Carolina. But this is not the only falcon species to have been found nesting near uptown Charlotte this year. A pair of American kestrels was discovered nesting in a hole in some siding of a condominium building on North Davidson Street in north Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood and have apparently fledged three youngsters.

There are probably a few pairs of kestrels in the county, but documentation of breeding has not been received for some years. Kestrels are a declining species nationwide, going the other way from the increasing peregrine falcon. As raptors go they are tiny; the males being not much larger than a blue jay. The females are slightly larger but not by much. Their diet consists mainly of large insects such as grasshoppers, but they can take small birds and mice.

This also illustrates how raptors of many species continue to adapt to urban environments, not just in residential neighborhoods but also right uptown. It is not uncommon at all to see red-tailed hawks soaring over the uptown area or perched on light poles within the I-277 loop. Cooper’s hawks nest in Dilworth alongside barred owls.

I suspect broad-winged hawks nest in the same general area too. Mississippi kites have bred inside the I-485 loop along Providence Road, and I believe they still do. Red-shouldered hawks are a common backyard sight throughout the county, often nesting in large oaks right over residences.

Hawks, owls, falcons and eagles were once a much persecuted group of birds. Thanks to federal protection they have rebounded significantly, and the public has grown to appreciate their beauty, power, flight skills and contributions to vermin control. They are a charismatic lot and deserve to be admired.

Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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